Automating iOS using Shortcuts

Lets make our iOS devices a little more automated.

Your iOS device has a built-in app called Shortcuts. If you’ve never tapped that pinky-orangey-greeny-bluey app icon before, here’s why you should.

Some Backstory first

The story begins with a third-party app called Workflow (surprisingly that link is still up) that was acquired by Apple. They renamed it to Shortcuts and it’s been installed by default since iOS 13.

What’s the app all about?

The Shortcuts App allows for creation and management of shortcuts. Let me jump straight to an example:

Here’s my Netflix Time shortcut on the iPad:

When activated, this shortcut performs the following actions:

  1. It wakes up the Apple TV in the lounge
  2. Opens the Netflix app on the Lounge TV
  3. Shows the Apple TV remote on the device (so I don’t need the physical Apple TV remote)
  4. Turns on a Lamp in the Lounge for ambient lighting
  5. Turns off the ceiling “Lounge Lights”

All with a single tap of a button or just ask Siri! Let’s see it in action:

Works great for watching Netflix in the evening!

This was more of a “look how cool Shortcuts can be” rather than my truly useful simple everyday Shortcuts. Here they are (and they run 100% on my iPhone):

  • “Table Lamp Toggle”
    • Toggles my desk lamp on and off and is activated by tapping the back of my phone thrice.
  • “Orientation Toggle”
    • Toggles orientation lock on my iPhone and is activated by tapping the back of my phone twice.

Time to build your own!

Christopher Lawley does an excellent job of providing an introduction to Shortcuts and how to make your own:

Apple has their own text and image based guide here.

Post-Implementation Summary

I love the ability to “program” my iOS devices using the simple Shortcuts interface. Being able to customize and automate actions also lets me break out of Apple’s traditional anti-customizable and locked down approach to iOS.

The Future

Perhaps a “Bedtime” shortcut that turns off my bedroom light, sets low power mode and plays 15 minutes of my last listened to podcast on Overcast…

If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with Shortcuts, leave a reply below. To get an email when I write another post, click here to subscribe. Thanks for reading!

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